My dear Mr. Hill:
Your sub-committee of the Ways and Means has pending before it H.R. 8479, "A Bill to stabilize the bituminous coal mining industry and promote its interstate commerce," etc., and I understand that questions of the constitutionality of some of its provisions have arisen in the sub-committee.
This industry, from the standpoint of the operators and the miners, has had many years of difficulty. The product is a great natural resource entitled to the consideration of the Congress both as to the conditions under which it is produced and distributed and as to measures which may be taken for its conservation. The deposits are limited to a few States, the consumption is nationwide. Competition and overexpansion have brought destructive price reductions, which have inevitably reacted upon labor standards with a resulting dislocation, restriction and obstruction of interstate commerce and a recurring danger of industrial strife. Circumstances such as these present the strongest possible illustration of how conditions of production directly affect commerce among the States.
Admitting that mining coal, considered separately and apart from its distribution in the flow of interstate commerce, is an intrastate transaction, the constitutionality of the provisions based on the commerce clause of the Constitution depends upon the final conclusion as to whether production conditions directly affect, promote or obstruct interstate commerce in the commodity.
Manifestly, no one is in a position to give assurance that the proposed act will withstand constitutional tests, for the simple fact that you can get not ten but a thousand differing legal opinions on the subject. But the situation is so urgent and the benefits of the legislation so evident that all doubts should be resolved in favor of the bill, leaving to the courts, in an orderly fashion, the ultimate question of constitutionality. A decision by the Supreme Court relative to this measure would be helpful as indicating, with increasing clarity, the constitutional limits within which this Government must operate. The proposed bill has been carefully drafted by employers and employees working cooperatively. An opportunity should be given to the industry to attempt to work out some of its major problems. I hope your committee will not permit doubts as to constitutionality, however reasonable, to block the suggested legislation.
Very sincerely yours,
Honorable Samuel B. Hill,
House of Representatives,